(1936–39), military revolt against the Republican government of Spain, supported by conservative elements within the country. When an initial military coup failed to win control of the entire country, a bloody civil war ensued, fought with great ferocity on both sides. The Nationalists, as the rebels were called, received aid from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union, as well as from International Brigades, composed of volunteers from Europe and the United States.
The war was an outcome of a polarization of Spanish life and politics that had developed over previous decades. On one side (the Nationalist) were most Roman Catholics, important elements of the military, most landowners, and many businessmen. On the other side (the Republican) were urban workers, most agricultural labourers, and many of the educated middle class. Politically their differences often found extreme and vehement expression in parties such as the fascist-oriented Falange and the militant anarchists. Between these extremes were other groups covering the political spectrum from monarchism and conservatism through liberalism to socialism, including a small communist movement divided among followers of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and his archrival, Leon Trotsky. In 1934 there was widespread labour conflict and a bloody uprising by miners in Asturias that was suppressed by troops led by General Francisco Franco. A succession of governmental crises culminated in the elections of February 16, 1936, which brought to power a Popular Front government supported by most of the parties of the left and opposed by the parties of the right and what remained of the centre.
A well-planned military uprising began on July 17, 1936, in garrison towns throughout Spain. By July 21 the rebels had achieved control in Spanish Morocco, the Canary Islands, and the Balearic Islands (except Minorca) and in the part of Spain north of the Guadarrama mountains and the Ebro River, except for Asturias, Santander, and the Basque provinces along the north coast and the region of Catalonia in the northeast. The Republican forces had put down the uprising in other areas, except for some of the larger Andalusian cities, including Seville, Granada, and Córdoba. The Nationalists and Republicans proceeded to organize their respective territories and to repre...
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...rovinces in the summer of 1937 and then Asturias, so that by October they held the whole northern coast. A war of attrition began. The Nationalists drove a salient eastward through Teruel, reaching the Mediterranean and splitting the republic in two in April 1938. In December 1938, they moved upon Catalonia in the northeast, forcing the Republican armies there northward toward France. By February 1939, 250,000 Republican soldiers, together with an equal number of civilians, had fled across the border into France. On March 5 the Republican government flew to exile in France. On March 7 a civil war broke out in Madrid between communist and anticommunist factions. By March 28 all of the Republican armies had begun to disband and surrender, and Nationalist forces entered Madrid on that day.
The number of persons killed in the Spanish Civil War can be only roughly estimated. Nationalist forces put the figure at 1,000,000, including not only those killed in battle but also the victims of bombardment, execution, and assassination. More recent estimates have been closer to 500,000 or less. This does not include all those who died from malnutrition, starvation, and war-engendered disease.
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